This is an exhilarating and emotional time! It is, after all, a celebration of the resurrection of a much-persecuted people, the proverbial spring of an old nation which has experienced glory in the past as well as incomparable tragedy. Nothing is as wonderful as at long last establishing oneself as master of one’s own land with great hope for the duration, retrieving what was once ours but lost because of the criminality of others.
Trials and tribulations, growing pains, forget them at least for a single day. They are merely an inconvenience today, to be dealt with as soon as tomorrow.
It is, indeed, great to be alive at this time, although one cannot but feel profound sadness for our parents and grandparents who did not live to see this day. After all, they made it all possible through their hard work and unwavering faith. They died in many different ways with Ukraine on their lips. They contributed much more than we, the current generation. We bow our heads in deep reverence and lift our hearts to all those Ukrainians who came before us. We are luckier than many previous generations of Ukrainians, even those who experienced freedom as well but only for a brief period of time.
This was not simply a momentary proclamation on August 24, 1991, by remnants of an old decaying cadre led by a few good and noble men and women. This act was followed by a genuine manifestation of the will of the entire people, a referendum of the people, people scarred psychologically over many years, many previously egregiously persecuted and even interned, their language, their soul rebuked and oppressed for many centuries.
They were told to become Little Russians even though their legacy was more than 1,000 years old and centuries older than that of the thieves and oppressors.
Five years later the peoples’ representatives drew on their venerable national tradition of democratic rule dating back to 1710, and drafted and adopted a democratic Constitution, a model, in fact, for others, despite some minor shortcomings.
That democratic tradition was so deeply ingrained that despite the psychological scars, when bad people tried to undermine the people’s will to govern themselves, the undying spirit of the people rebelled. In particular, the young rose up against a fraudulent election and installed their properly elected representative.
Years of peace followed, though often undermined by foreign interference. The Muscovites would not let go. The insidious forces both domestic and foreign within Ukraine and at its borders pursued a hostile agenda, and finally prevailed installing as president a Russian dupe. Immediately, he started doing Moscow’s work. However, the people rose up to the task and after only a few years they took to the streets once again and ousted the renegade.
Unsuccessful in their internal war against Ukraine and its people, the savage and historic oppressor from Moscow used this opportunity and invaded openly and brazenly, illegally annexed Ukrainian territory in Crimea and commenced military hostilities in the eastern region of Donbas. More than seven years later, the armed struggle continues. Many have died, even more have been displaced. Despite numerous ceasefires, Moscow continues the carnage.
Nevertheless, despite the turmoil and Western ineffectiveness in mediating peace, the Ukrainian nation and state persists as testimony to an undying and freedom-loving spirit.
Damn Muscovites! Know that Ukrainian freedom and statehood are forever. Glory to Ukraine! Glory to its legions of heroes who died over the centuries to make our freedom possible. This and future generations owe you! We will never forget you and promise to make good on your great sacrifice!
Much remains to be done but, despite deficiencies and tremendous obstacles, the first 30 years have been glorious and unforgettable. Ukrainian freedom was considered once to be the Impossible Dream. Not impossible any more. It is a dream that has become real, very real! All Ukrainians everywhere, in Ukraine or in New Zealand, should be living this dream.
Fellow Ukrainians! Let us set aside all personal mundane and even serious cares, troubles and squabbles. Let us remember our grandparents and parents. Let us hug our children and grandchildren. Today is our Independence Day. Our glorious, often tragic quest for freedom has been attained! Thank God!
Askold S. Lozynskyj is an attorney at law based in New York City who served as president of the Ukrainian World Congress in 1998-2008.